Wednesday, September 15, 2004

No friend like an old friend

(this is a little rambly because I'm rushing to write it before Yom Tov starts)

Last night, Yael, who has been my friend since we were around 6 years old, called me and asked if I want to go for coffee.

I said "Yael, I just had a horrible, stressful day. So stressful, that now that the stress has ended, and my adrenaline level is going down, I feel sick to my stomache. It's awful."

Twenty minutes later, Yael was at my door. I'd left my door open for her because I needed to lie down and nurse my stomache pains. She found my apartment in a state of disarray, because the fix-it guy had been there and I'd had to move furniture so he could get to things in the walls. My bed was covered with books that I'd taken down so I could move my bookshelf. And since I couldn't lie on the bed, Yael found me on the floor, on a blanket, miserable.

She then proceeded to put my books away for me, and then sat on the dusty (because of the fix-it guy) floor so I could tell her what happened. I'd made a list of all the stressful things that happened. There were 16 items on the list, but here are just some of them:

1. I had to hand in all my work for the week 2 days early, because of Rosh Hashanah. Same work, half the time. And you may recall that I've been burned out -- and my boss delayed giving me an answer about taking a vacation for so long that it became moot, since my job ends after next week anyway. I've been running on empty. So, basically, for the last week or so I've been doing a really bad job. Oh, nothing journalistically bad; everything I've written is accurate and comprehensive. I mean things like handing work in late, sending emails but forgetting to attach documents, stuff like that. Flaky, ditzy stuff. I hate it when I do a bad job (which is why that rarely happens). Anyhow, the short work week and my current state of ditziness culminated in my handing in an article so late yesterday that 2 people had to stay at work late, waiting for me to get it in, because without it there was a hole in the page. My editor, who is normally the most reasonable, even-tempered boss one could hope for, actually raised his voice to me, which never happens. It's one thing for me to be burned-out-flaky, another to be inconveniencing other people. And right before Rosh Hashanah!

2. One of the articles I submitted was deemed so unclear that it was unusable. I can't explain here why that happened without discussing the topic of the article, but basically, I'd actually worked really hard on it, but the editors were coming from a different place. That happens, I know. Ultimately, it's their decision, which I accept. I also know that not everyone can produce consistently amazing work all the time; everyone has their Achilles heel. But it was a bad day for this to happen.

3. Another article I wrote, I felt bad about because of loshon hara issues. This is always a tough aspect of being Orthodox and a journalist. Obviously I take care that what I write is true, an accurate portrayal of reality. But a thing's being true is what makes it loshon hara. Sometimes I feel no conflict at all -- such as if I'm saying loshon hara against a government ministry. But when I have to write bad things about a basically decent individual who may have done something stupid, but who generally is an upstanding citizen, I do feel bad. And right before Rosh Hashanah!

4. I went clothes shopping in Israel for the first time. You have to understand that I hate shopping. I despise the entire experience. I've been putting this off all year because I'd been warned that the clothes here have no sizes listed on the labels, and the store is likely to have only a couple of each item. So you have to go around holding shirts and dresses up to see if maybe, if you squint hard enough, they might fit you. Anyway, I walked into a store that had been recommended by some friends. My shopping philosophy is: "Pick a store that is likely to have clothes that fit and look nice, buy a few things, and then wait a full year. Repeat." It was 2 days before Rosh Hashanah and I had to buy something, or I'd be going to shule in a t-shirt and sweatpants.

The ladies in the store gave me several blouses and skirts to try. Everything hung on me like it's 4 sizes too big (also, I'm short, so all the skirts were about 6 inches too long. There is no such thing as "petite" sizes here.) But the thing was, everyone in the store, including other customers, were ooing and ahing and saying "wow, that blouse looks great on you" and "wow, that's such a nice outfit for Yom Tov." And I realized that here in the Middle East, "loose and flowy" is the style. It's OK to wear something too big on you, because it's not too big, it's just flowy. I looked in the mirror and assessed what I was wearing. The skirts needed to be shortened, and the clothes were not my style, but I'd seen women all over Jerusalem wearing clothes just like this and knew that to Israelis, I really did look great, and not at all like a little girl swimming in her mommy's too-big clothes. So I chalked it up to "being absorbed" and bought two very flowy blouses, one very flowy skirt (which they shortened for me), and two very flowy shells to wear under the blouses.

Later, I showed Yael the clothes and she said "It looks like it's 4 sizes too big for you." But when I showed it to my Israeli neighbor, she just said "wow, what beautiful, flowy material." So there you go. I've gone native. But the whole thing was really stressful for me while it was happening. Thank God I won't be doing that again for another year. :-)

5. I was supposed to go to the OU Center to meet with the staff and discuss getting a "Little Sister," but because of my work stuff (see above), had to cancel it. And right before Rosh Hashanah!

6. So I had the fix-it guy over to take care of things in my apartment that had been building up. Again, afterward it was worth it but while it was happening (in the middle of my writing an article) it was just a mess. Moving furniture, running to the hardware store for a part I needed to supply, etc.

7. I hadn't had anything to drink all day, and hadn't eaten anything healthy. I was running on empty, literally.

Anyhow, the real point of all this is that Yael, having found me on the floor and put my books away, said "get up. We are going out for some healthy food." And so we got take-out, and came back to my place, and watched a video of "Anne of Green Gables," which she and I used to watch together when we were about 12.

And the fresh air felt so good, and the real food, and the water, and knowing that I have a dear friend nearby who knows me well and who I feel so comfortable with that I feel OK letting her see me on the floor, moaning and miserable. And who understands why I love "Anne of Green Gables," with the passion that only a 12-year-old can feel for it.

One of the hardest things about making aliyah was leaving my close friends behind in the US. I'm so happy that one of my oldest, best friends made aliyah before I did, and was waiting for me. When I was on the verge of nervous collapse, she saved me, and for that I am so grateful!

I gotta run; yom tov is in half an hour. Shanah tova to one and all!

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